180 High Street once The Old English Gentleman
Construction of the Old English Gentleman
Located on the corner of High Street and London Road on the site of a windmill which burned down in 1833, The Old English Gentleman was built about 1839.
It is reputed that the builders started the construction too close to the verge of the highway and Parson Metcalfe of Fowlmere was passing by and noticed this. He told the builders that they would have to demolish the walls they had already started and move them further back. This they had to do and, being annoyed, they threatened to call the pub ‘The Meddlesome Parson.’ However, when they received praise from the Vicar for the standard of their workmanship, they relented and decided on ‘The Old English Gentleman.’
In Dec 1844 the Cambridge Chronicle & Journal advertised the ‘Auction of the newly-built Old English Gentleman pub, together with 3 acres land and a cottage’. 1845 and 1863 auction adverts describe the pub as being of brick and tile construction, having a taproom, bar, large parlour, cellar, kitchen, 5 bedrooms, yard, sheds, plumber’s workshop, garden, brick & tile stable, detached cottage with gardens and arable land let to Messrs. Jordan & Tuck. The pub remained very much as originally built until 1938 (although many of the out-buildings had disappeared). The pub owners were the Star Brewery of Cambridge and they put ground floor extensions on either side of the building and ground and first floor extensions to the rear to give the building the shape that remains today.
On the side wall of the Old English Gentleman you can still find a benchmark (in 2017), shown in one photo, put there by the Ordnance Survey when they were doing surveying in the 1880s.
Starting life as a beer house
Starting life as a beer-house in 1839, it didn’t get its wine and spirit licence until 100 years later as reported in the local press:
The landlord of the Old English Gentleman at Harston said trade had increased and 101 new houses had been built nearby. There were plans for alterations with a car park for 30 cars. It had a slate club paying money in sick pay and a darts club where players were accompanied by female relatives who did not drink beer but asked for ‘short drinks’ he was not allowed to sell. He had to refuse the sale of four or five bottles of gin or whisky on a Saturday. But the licensee of the Coach and Horses said there were already four fully licensed premises for a population of 1,000. If you pooled all their takings in wine and spirits no tenant would get a living – brewers only allowed a margin of sixpence on a bottle of whisky.
Whilst not in the heart of the village, its location at the junction of what was the main road to London and what became the main road to London gave it much passing trade. Also about the time of its opening, coprolite digging was starting on nearby lands stretching to Haslingfield and coprolite diggers were notorious for the thirsts! This report from Cambridge Independent Press of Feb 6 1864
Mr Gilby (a young man), Master of the Harston Fossil Pits, gave all of his labourers (about 30) a treat of a ‘real good Old English supper’ on 29 Jan at the Old English Gentleman, hosted by Mr and Mrs Whitehead, the owners. The Harston Brass Band was in attendance ‘playing in good style’. ‘Always pleasing to see a Master and his labourers mutually united’.
The pub has been used to hold meetings for various organisations, auctions, inquests and concerts, most notably on 22 Feb 1965 when The Tea Set performed who shortly after that re-named themselves Pink Floyd!
In 1993 publican Bob Brownlie asked Tolly Cobold to brew a new special cask beer called ‘Squarson’ and commissioned a Cambridge designer Margot Slade-Baker to design a new sign of the old squire that the pub was named after. There have been a number of different versions of the sign. Can anyone date these?
The pub closed in 2008. In May 2009 it opened as the Vujon Indian Restaurant which closed in 2016. The building stood empty and deteriorating until 2023 when it was demolished and the site was filled by 6 houses and 2 apartments.
The Old English Gentleman in the newspapers
1847 July 31 Cambridge Chronicle & Journal
For sale, by W. Rowton, at The Old English Gentleman, for Mr Peter Barker ‘who is declining farming’, of crops in Little Shelford, 3 acres 1 rood of wheat on Newton Road, lately Mrs Austin’s allotment, 13 acres barley, 7 acres tares, 4 acres of peas.
1847 July 31 Cambridge Chronicle & Journal
Inquest at The Od English Gentleman, on Henry Jarman, found dead in the middle of the road, verdict ‘died of a fit’.
Below is a list of landlords and approximate dates but it is not complete. Do you know anymore names and/or dates?
1847- Joseph Jordan 1918-27 Havelock & Beatrice Hammond
1851- James Tuck 1931-39 Cyril E John Turner
1853- Thomas Marshall 1947- Frederick William Smart
1854-56 William Marshall 1949-56 Charles Beadle
1860-61 Thomas Tuck 1960s Reg Tulley
1864- George R Whitehead 1970s Mike Bradford
1869- James Northrop 1983-86 Dave & June Lewin
1875- Samuel Fenning 1986- Mike & Eileen Scott
1877-80 Robert Morley 1990- Mr James
1881- John Covill 1992-93 Mr Strachan
1882- Mrs Covill 1993- Bob Brownlie
1893- Sarah Ann Covill 1990s Helen Evans & Mick Ross
1908-11 Harry Covill 2005 Ms H Turrell
2009 Became Vujon restaurant